Before the Opera

September 29, 2021 | By Suzanne Whitney | Opera Explained
A long queue of patrons walk the red carpet in front of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Ready to make a glamorous entrance? Patrons walk the red carpet before entering the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

By: Suzanne Whitney

Opera has a long and rich history. The history and traditions are fun for those in the know, but can be a barrier to entry for opera newbies. So many questions come up surrounding not just the art form itself, but the experience of attending the opera.

What do I need to know beforehand? How do people know what they are singing in a different language? When should I clap? How the heck do I find parking? We are here to answer those questions.


In this first post, we are tackling topics to help you feel comfortable before the curtain rises. Here is some information to set us all up for success, whether you are a returning patron or are joining us for your very first opera.

So, what do you need to know before the opera?


Get to Know the Plot

Director Matthew Ozawa works through artists from Opera Colorado's 2019 production of The Marriage of Figaro.
Director Matthew Ozawa works through artists from Opera Colorado’s 2019 production of The Marriage of Figaro.

Unlike heading to the movie theater, where you likely don’t know the twists and turns of the plot until you see it, there is no need to avoid spoilers at the opera! Most opera-goers read the plot before the curtain rises. Opera truly encompasses all art forms in one, artistic scenic creations, compelling storytelling, and of course, incredible music. Knowing the general plot before the performance starts allows you to enjoy the grand spectacle before you, rather than trying to catch who’s father just died and who is in disguise.

Here at Opera Colorado, we try to make it easy to learn what is going on by publishing fun educational content during the lead-up to each of our productions on our blog and our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. 

Get to Know the Music

Soprano Cecilia Violetta López and tenor Eric Barry rehearse the music for Opera Colorado's 2018 production of La Traviata.
Soprano Cecilia Violetta López and tenor Eric Barry rehearse the music for Opera Colorado’s 2018 production of La Traviata.

One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to prepare for a trip to the opera is listening to the music. Just like you would play your favorite band’s music in preparation for a concert, pull a recording of the opera on YouTube, your favorite music streaming service, or even head to your library for a CD.

Play it in the background as you cook dinner, work from home, or even head out on a run. You may find mundane daily tasks are way more epic with an operatic soundtrack. You may also find a favorite tune in the opera and have something you are on the edge of your seat waiting to hear live.

Get to Know the Production

Opera Colorado’s artists are a talented and playful bunch! here the 2019 cast of The Barber of Seville are out for a day of fun.

Before you walk through the doors to the opera house, it can be fun to get to know the artists and creators who are working on the production you have tickets to see. This can be as simple as visiting the production’s webpage to find bios for the artists and creative team. Or, you could dive in head first, Google the artists, find previous performances on YouTube, look through the Opera Colorado Archives for highlights, check out our Anatomy of an Aria series, and totally immerse yourself in the artists’ lives and work before you see them in person. It can be fun to come in with a blank slate, but if you are the kind of person who loves an internet rabbit hole, just start digging! You may be surprised by what you find.

Is There a Dress Code?

Ok, so opera is fancy, right? Do I have to dress up just to get in the door?

Nope! This can differ from venue to venue, but you’ll see a range of attire at any Opera Colorado performance—from cowboy boots to stiletto heels and polo shirts to tuxedo jackets. Many of our patrons say they like to dress “Colorado Fancy,” which means a comfortable dress with a cardigan or slacks with a button-up shirt. Then again, we have other patrons who view a night at the opera as the perfect excuse to wear their most fabulous outfit.

If you’re looking for a particularly glam experience, we recommend opening night as the performance when the ball gowns and black-tie are most likely to come out. (But you wouldn’t be the only one in a nice pair of jeans, we promise.) We want you to show up to the opera in the way that feels most comfortable and most like you

What Accessibility Programs Does Opera Colorado Have?

Opera is for everyone, and to us at Opera Colorado, that means intentionally making sure it is accessible to all. We provide accessible seating, parking, assistive listening devices, a subtitle system, and include at least one audio-described performance during each run. 

We know this does not cover all the needs of our community, so if you need different accommodations, please contact our Patron Services team at least 24 hours in advance of your performance date so that we can ensure you have what you need to enjoy your event.

Click here for full details regarding our accessibility programs>>

Where Do I Park?

When heading into a new experience, it is always helpful to know the details: how do you get there, where am I parking, etc.

For patrons at Opera Colorado, we recommend parking at the Denver Performing Arts Complex garage, The Colorado Convention Center garage, or finding another parking lot near the Arts Complex if you’d rather walk a few blocks and avoid the post-show crowds.

Find all our information on parking here>>

Where Is the Opera House?

In Denver, we are spoiled by having some of the best performing arts venues together in one complex, but if you are unfamiliar with the layout it can be a bit of a maze! The Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) is owned and operated by the City and County of Denver and the home of ten downtown performance spaces, including the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Opera Colorado is proud to be one of the four resident companies—along with the Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA)—who are tenants of DPAC venues. However, each resident company is its own independent arts organization, although we often perform in the same beautiful venues. 

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